Dr. Shuaib Manjra says the risk of hospitalization in Gauteng is growing especially in unvaccinated people, on the day BCCI postponed the South Africa cricket tour. While India’s cricket tour of South Africa is set to be delayed by at least a week after global panic over the new coronavirus variant Omicron, the hosts have underlined the sturdiness of the bio-safe bubbles put in place for the cricketers.
The chief medical officer of Cricket South Africa (CSA) Dr. Shuaib Manjra has said that though the virus spread is “growing exponentially” in Gauteng province, which includes the Johannesburg region where India are slated to play their first two Tests, there are protocols in place for all eventualities.
Dr. Shuaib Manjra: Covid-19 Cases Growing Exponentially As South Africa Is At The Beginning Of Covid-19 4th Wave
According to the reports, BCCI is set to request Cricket South Africa to postpone the India tour of South Africa and one Test match is set to be removed from the three-match Test series. India’s tour of South Africa is set to be delayed at least by a week. The Indian team was scheduled to fly out on December 9 via a charter flight, but according to sources, that has been put on hold. Squads selection for the South Africa tour, too, has been deferred.
Dr. Shuaib Manjra said, “South Africa is at the beginning of the fourth wave. Statistically, the cases are growing exponentially. But the evidence so far is that the cases have been mild in general. The risk of hospitalization, in Gauteng, is growing especially in the unvaccinated population. 75 percent of the cases suggest that.”
Dr. Shuaib Manjra went on to cite the ongoing tour of India A of South Africa to buttress his point saying, “there have been zero positive cases so far.” The India A team is currently touring South Africa and although the BCCI is not yet pulling out of that tour, the cricket board has made up its mind to push back the dates of the senior team’s visit.
“We want to assess the situation and take a call. We want to address the fears of the players too,” a BCCI member said.
The Indian team was scheduled to fly out on December 9, with the first Test starting at Johannesburg on December 17. The team is to play 3 Tests, 3 ODIs, and 4 T20Is in South Africa. BCCI could ask CSA to delay the series. India is scheduled to play three Tests, three ODIs, and four T20Is as part of the tour.
The 10-match tour is worth around R 700 million (South African Rand), roughly 330 Cr INR. The heavily-mutated Omicron variant of the coronavirus was last month identified in South Africa, where cases reportedly doubled within 24 hours on Wednesday. The Omicron variant has reached as many as 24 countries, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Dr. Shuaib Manjra: Indian Players Will Have To Undergo 5 Day Quarantine
Back in September, the Indian team had refused to play the fifth and final Test against hosts England in Manchester following a mini-covid outbreak in the camp. Dr. Shuaib Manjra is confident that the bio-bubbles can ensure safety. He went on to broadly give details about the protocols agreed by the two boards.
“The Indian players will have to undergo a five-day quarantine, majority of which (four days) would be mild. The first day will be the intense proper quarantine. The players can move around outdoors within the confines of the hotel complex in small groups for five days,” he said.
Besides regular testing, the players will be toggling between three bio-secure islands – hotels, grounds, and transport. While in Johannesburg for the first two Tests, the hotels will be exclusively for the players; in Cape Town for the third Test, other guests too will be staying at the same premises.
Explaining this Dr. Shuaib Manjra said, “The hotels for the first two Tests will be totally dedicated to the players. No outside guests will be staying. The players will get to move around the outdoor spaces at the hotel and won’t be confined to the rooms. The hotel in Capetown will have people other than players staying but the players’ area will be blocked and separated from the rest.”
He assured special care will also be taken to ensure that the hotel staff will check in five days before the start of the series to quarantine themselves. The bus drivers and liaison officers will also stay at the hotel. The hotels will have covid-compliant officers and only those who are vaccinated be able to work in bio-secure bubbles. Protocols are in place in case positive cases sprout up, assured the CSA medical officer.
“Of course no one can guarantee that there won’t be any positive cases. But we have protocols in place to handle them. The cricketing boards of both India and South Africa have agreed on the protocol to handle any positive cases,” the CSA medical officer said.
Dr. Shuaib Manjra is of the view that the bio-bubbles breaches usually happen due to two eventualities-among the hotel staff or any player coming from a foreign country.
“Firstly, among the hotel staff. Secondly, from any player carrying the virus from their respective country or travel. That’s why we have the first week of mild quarantine with frequent testing to find and isolate.”
Dr. Shuaib Manjra has been associated with Cricket South Africa for twenty years and is confident that the India vs South Africa all-format tour will go on without major hiccups. He, however, does feel the pressure.
“Of course there is huge pressure as there is a responsibility to ensure safety. This is a big tour for both countries. But I want to assure Indian players, the public, and BCCI that we are ready for the tour.
“We have been working on bio secure bubbles for 18 months now for various tours and we have been successful in maintaining it. All the recce and checks have been made . Protocols are in place. We are ready. ”
Notably, the India A team is currently in a bio-bubble in Bloemfontein, where they are playing the second of three unofficial Tests and there is no indication of them leaving earlier than planned.